NEW YORK — CNBC says reporter Rick Santelli is not connected to a Web site that used his name to promote a series of political protests against President Barack Obama.
Santelli's name was stripped from headlines on the home page of Monday after its operator was made aware of CNBC's dissatisfaction. The site was operating within 24 hours after the reporter's self-described rant on Feb. 19, when he said the president's plan to help people in danger of home foreclosure was "promoting bad behavior." http://www.reteaparty.com
Video of Santelli's appearance at the Chicago Board of Trade has been seen nearly 2 million times on CNBC's Web site, more than anything the network has ever posted, and more than 855,000 times on YouTube.
Before it was altered Monday, the Web site described "Rick Santelli's Re-Tea Party" four times on its home page, urging people to organize for protests. It had an "About Rick" link with the CNBC on-air editor's profile, saying he "voiced the sentiment of millions of Americans on the stock market floor."
Scroll down to the small print at the bottom of the page and there's a disclaimer saying the site is a grass-roots effort promoted by the Political Exploration and Awareness Committee and that the "opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Rick Santelli."
Santelli's commentary struck a nerve among Americans, said CNBC spokesman Brian Steel. "To try to make anything more of his comment than that is ridiculous and without basis in fact," he said.
Despite the inherent dangers of others trying to use it for political purposes, CNBC's management supports Santelli's outspokenness, Steel said. It's a reflection of a trend on cable news over the past couple of years with Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann: clear points of view are big sellers.
Santelli posted a long letter on CNBC's Web site Monday, where he said his rant was spontaneous and not scripted, as some critics have claimed.
"Though it has been reported that I am a registered Republican I have no political agenda and any person, organization or media outlet that claims otherwise is inaccurate," he wrote. "I hope that the president and the final stimulus plan succeed."
Santelli, who was not made available for comment, had angrily criticized the president for policies that Santelli believed would reward people who had bought houses that they could not afford.
"This is America," he said, turning to traders on the floor. "How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?"
When the traders around him began booing, Santelli said, "President Obama, are you listening?"
Anthony Astolfi, a California Web developer who was active in Republican Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign, said he stayed up all night putting the "reteaparty" Web site together. He and others online are using Santelli's statement to promote a Boston Tea Party-style protest against the government plan.
Using Santelli's name was the most effective way of drawing attention to his site, Astolfi said. He denied it was an attempt to mislead people into believing Santelli supported what they were doing.
"We put disclosure on the bottom of the site," he said.
The description of "Rick Santelli's Re-Tea Party" had been up for 11 days, along with comments from readers praising him.
Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs was quick to criticize Santelli for his comments. He urged him to print out a copy of Obama's plan and read it.
"I'd be happy to buy him a cup of coffee," Gibbs said in a White House briefing. "Decaf."
Santelli said later he felt he had been threatened by Gibbs. He was backed up by fellow CNBC personality Larry Kudlow, who called it "the worst press relations we've seen in our lifetime." Santelli was then asked about it late last week on NBC's "Today" show.
"If you go out of your way to call out the president of the United States, you have to expect his representative to go out of his way to call you out," Matt Lauer said. "Doesn't that go with the territory?"
Replied Santelli: "I don't know if he needs to throw out my name. I just have an issue with that."